Within the past two weeks, my church has started asking the congregation to greet people that we might not know, while we sit in the pews just before the Mass starts. Is this in the rubrics, and why is this necessary? I find this as just another distraction and an infringement on my prayer time. The Mass is slowly becoming like a town meeting. Am I overreacting?
No, it is not part of the rubrics of the Mass for congregants to greet each other before Mass starts. In fact, it is part of traditional Catholic piety to maintain a reverent silence while in the church, both before and after the liturgy, out of respect for the magnitude of what occurs during the liturgy: the sacramental re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary and Christ’s continuing sacramental presence in the tabernacle. Chatter, however well-intentioned, distracts others from their focus on Christ and from their internal preparation for meeting him in the Mass and in the Eucharist.
It is a praiseworthy goal for your parish to seek to help its congregants feel welcome, but disrupting private prayer before Mass is not the way to do it. If your parish has a social hall, it might be better to encourage the formation of a hospitality group to provide coffee and doughnuts after morning Masses, thereby encouraging congregants to mingle after Mass and outside of the church. If necessary, a discreet mention of the availability of coffee, doughnuts, and camaraderie in the social hall can be made during the announcements at Mass. Notice can also be placed in a church bulletin.